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RFID Tags for Harsh Environments

Quelis, a Canadian startup, offers tough low-frequency tags encapsulated in protective epoxy.
By Mark Roberti
Oct 21, 2003Oct. 22, 2003 -- Quelis ID Systems, a startup RFID manufacturer based in Mirabel, Canada, near Montreal, is launching a line of low-frequency (125 KHz) tags designed to withstand harsh warehouse and manufacturing environments.
SmartQDisk tag

The company’s SmartQDisk products are RFID tags encased in special epoxy or ABS formulations that resist heat and cold throughout the lifetime of a product. (ABS is acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, a common plastic material.) Quelis says the tags can function normally in temperatures ranging from minus 13 to 158 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 25 to 70 degrees Celsius) and can withstand storage temperatures from minus 40 to 176 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 40 to 80 degrees Celsius).

The tags are designed to be mounted on assets and reusable containers that are washed at high temperatures or with harsh chemicals. They can be used to track works in process in factories where assets may be subject to rough treatment. The tags range in diameter from 15 mm (0.6 inches) to 80 mm (3.15 inches) and in thickness from 1.1 mm (0.043 inches) to 3 mm (0.118 inches).

The tags use microchips from EM Microelectronic and Philips Semiconductors. But Christian Bussière, president and CEO of Quelis, says the products can be made with a wide variety of chips, including those that operate at 13.56 MHz, 868 MHz and 2.45 GHz. They also can be customized with printing.

Bussière, a veteran of several RFID companies, launched Quelis in November 2000 to take advantage of a process he had developed for attaching antennas to RFID microchips. The conventional attachment process is to coat the antenna ends with an adhesive and flip the chip over so that the metal pads on the chip are pressed onto the antenna.

Bussière says his method, called Wire on Chip, is faster, cheaper and provides a better electrical connection than the flip-chip process. Bussière declines to provide any details about how his process achieves this, but he does say that the better connection means fewer defects in the tags and better performance. Quelis has applied for patents and is guarding the technology carefully.

The new tags are available immediately. Pricing depends on the size of the disk, type of microchip used and the volume of the order, but Quelis says companies can pay as little as 50 cents per tag in volumes of 25,000 or more.
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